Dian Chapman is a Technical Consultant (see Dian's Technical Vitaé) & Microsoft MVP since 1995 (see Dian's Microsoft MVP Profile) who joined the Patriot Guard Riders in early 2007. In May, 2008, she became a member of Soldiers' Angels, first serving on their sewing and crochet teams...making blankets for deployed soldiers and wounded vets. More recently she also joined Warriors Watch.
Dian soon became an Approved Angel allowed to take deployed soldiers under her wings...regularly writing to them, as well as sending them care packages through the Soldiers Angels Adoption Team (see My Soldiers for status updates on Dian's adopted soldiers and K9 teams). She now holds a life-time membership status as a Soldier's Angel.
Additionally, Dian is a strong supporter of the campaign to build the Military Working Dog (MWD) Teams National Monument. With Congressional legislation approving authority to build the monument (coming soon) to the brave K9 teams who protect us and save so many lives, now all they need is our support and help with donations! Please see this page for more info: Military Working Dog Monument.
Dian & Greg Chapman (avid big dog lovers with three of their own) were previously involved with Military Mascots and Dian hoped to again adopt a deployed K9 Unit. In 2009 she became more involved with US War Dogs Org and has since met many wonderful K9 teams, several who she now supports as unofficial adoptees. If you're a dog lover, you'll also enjoy reading a story Dian wrote about Greg's adventure getting a soldier's dog home from Iraq: Honey, I'm Home! Greg was also one of the many volunteer pilots who headed south to assist with Katrina relief. See his photo-story of his Katrina adventure here: Katrina Relief.
In 2009, Dian was honored with this Soldiers' Angel award (pictured at the left) by Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels and grand niece of General George S. Patton! It is engraved: 'Dian Chapman. For Going Above and Beyond The Call of Angels In supporting Our Military Personnel. 2009.'
Writing letters to her adopted soldiers was so rewarding that, at the end of 2009, Dian joined the Soldiers' Angels' Letter Writing Team. She now regularly writes to several soldiers a week...more when those to whom she writes write back. Learn more about how to get involved writing soldiers at this Letter Writing link. In May, 2010, she was also approved to be on the Soldiers' Angels ePal team...sending emails to soldiers who have requested this type of contact. And in July, 2010, she became a member of Operation Top Knot, making baby gifts for expectant military wives.
Dian also discovered another great way to show affection for what our military does for us...by sending them a cup of coffee through the Green Bean Cup of Joe program. It's a quick, easy and secure way to pay for a soldier's coffee while s/he's in a war zone! See the Cup of Joe link for details and a fun soldier video. And in 2011 Dian also joined up with Warrior Watch, another group of motorcycle riders who support our heroes, particularly with Welcome Home escorts, as in their mottos..."We Have Your Backs Here at Home" and "Treat Them Like a Rock Star."
Please DO visit the Soldiers' Angels main web site and GET INVOLVED! Forwarding patriotic and prayer emails is nice, but really show them you support them by actually DOING SOMETHING tangible! It can take very little effort and/or money on your part, but the heartfelt rewards you'll get from our soldiers are more than you can imagine!
Feel free to email Dian directly...she'll be happy to tell you about more ways you can get involved with helping our brave men, woman AND canine soldiers and vets! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"Feel free to link up with me via Facebook. I often post more soldier, vet & K9 details through my profile. Just click the Facebook logo/image to the right to request a connection with me. And if you're a deployed soldier who found their way here to my site...PLEASE DO get in touch with me! Link up via Facebook or drop me an email. I'd LOVE to hear from you and will be happy to be your surrogate Angel until you get your own."
Dian D. Chapman
MAY NO SOLDIER GO UNLOVED!
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Dian's Monthly Activity Updates!
An acquaintence requests to purchase one of my American Flag Lapghans for his buddy who lost his legs from an IED in Afghanistan. So I spend some time sewing stars onto one of my semi-finished flags.
October 2011 will always live in my memory...because it's when mom passed away! I'd been her caretaker for the last 15 years, up until her last year when my sister finally stepped up to help and took mom to live with her daughter where they had more room to get mom around in her wheelchair. At 91.5 yrs old...mom passed away in the middle of October.
Love you and miss you, mom! This photo of me with mom was from her 90th birthday.
With Halloween coming, I discover this 'costume' pic that just kills me. I laugh every time I see it!<g>
Being a Technical Consultant who has been a computer geek since the early 80s, it was sad to learn that Apple founder, Steve Jobs, passed away from his illness battle.
Greg's folks celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary...
...so we loaded up The Barker Gang into our Winnebago motor home and headed down to Ohio to visit with Greg's family and help his folks celebrate their milestone. We only recently purchased the motor home, so it was a new experience for the dogs, but, as you can clearly see, they were literally right at home during the trip.
On our drive back from Ohio, we missed a turn and had to take a little detour, since it's a bit hard to make a quick adjustment in a route when you're driving an 8 ton Winnebago! But maybe it was fate because our detour took us passed this marker...one soldiers will understand. For those of you who don't, Google "Bataan Death March" to learn some important history!
A plea went out via Soldiers' Angels asking for cards/letters of support for a little girl who was about to celebrate her birthday, but was having a hard time due to just learning that her daddy (Sgt. 1st Class Brad Geist) had just been killed. So it was time to write to do my part and pass along my words in a sympathy card to her, which I hoped would help.
An avid dog lover with three big ones of our own, I've also fallen in love with a neighbors sweet dogs. So as a thank you for their wonderful dinner invites, I decided to make a banner to allow our neighbors to display photos of their dogs in a fun way. I made a Golden Retriever quilted banner in honor of their two goldens. Then I put three see-thru plastic pockets on the banner so they could insert their own, favorite photos and change those pics as they wish. To help them see that there are picture pockets, I inserted temporary cartoon dog pics for a little fun.
With some crisp weather days rolling in, it felt like time to start doing some baking. I kicked out some brownies and apple pies as I got ready for pumpkin bread and pies next month. I also better organized and uploaded some of my favorite recipes online: http://www.mousetrax.com/dian/recipes.html
A plea went out via Soldiers' Angels saying that soldiers were asking for baby wipes, as those are like gold when you're in the desert. They help soldiers clean up and feel refreshed after spending time in the blowing sand. So I ran out to WalMart, loaded up on wipes and sent off a shipment.
Soldiers' Angels posts a story about the Barrington event I organized in August: http://soldiersangels.org/index.php?mact=News%2Ccntnt01%2Cdetail%2C0&cntnt01articleid=893&cntnt01returnid=15
With the anniversary of 9/11, our family was thinking of a family friend: http://pubs.logicalexpressions.com/Pub0009/LPMIssue.asp?ISI=5#vanessa
Andrew Wade was a neighbor of ours who was killed in Afghanistan in March, 2011. His dad organized a motorcycle/classic car run in September to honor Andrew with proceeds going to a local food bank. Greg and I participated in this event. You can view our photostory of the ride here: Andrew Wade Memorial Ride
Andrew was an Army sniper, so this (photo to the right) was the shirt each memorial participant received upon registration. Very fitting.
I'm still getting used to being a 'country mouse' versus the 'city mouse' I've been for all my previous life. This month I discovered what a horse fly looks like and how painful their bite can be. WHOA! And how big and ugly they are! But Greg and I are also exploring our new environment. We went on a wonderful fall drive along some quiet country roads, which I'm looking forward to exploring again on my motorcycle next summer.
I've been getting more and more involved with our K9 teams...or rather our MWD (Military Working Dogs) as this is now the more overall and common term for the many hero soldier/K9s working to protect us around the world.
Ya GOTTA love a guy in uniform!<smile>
But, very sadly, we're now realizing that some of these brave War Dogs also suffer from PTSD and some have to be put down due to their inability to get passed their experiences in a war zone. James (below) was heartbroken when he realized he had to let his partner, MWD Torca, go over that Rainbow Bridge.
In honor/memory of 31 heroes killed with the downing of one of our aircraft in Afghanistan.
On August 3rd I attended the local National Night Out. This is an annual event that first started in some of the rougher neighborhoods as a way to 'take back' those neighborhoods from those gangs who made them nearly impossible in which to live. The idea has been moving more and more national. It is normally held on August 2. But we experienced some nasty storms, so the local event was postponed to Aug 3rd.
To learn more about the National Night Out and see how to get your community involved, if you aren't already, see this link: National Night Out
Being a Police related event, in this demonstration (image below) the officer explains how drug sniffing dogs are trained and rewarded. The officer in the back is having a fun game of 'tug' with this police dog after he successfully found the 'fake' drugs (the ones they use in training since they couldn't bring real drugs to this event). The dogs are trained to love and live for their playtime reward when they do a good job and find the item they'd been trained to locate.
The previous covert mission to take down Osama bin Laden had been quite successful, including giving the US tons of insider information taken from bin Laden's computer hard drives. Another, similar, mission was apparently planned. But...extremely sadly...this time the chinook helicopter was downed and all aboard, including another elite K9 team, were killed. The President notified the country of these facts. See http://youtu.be/SN_G652riD4
The MWD (Military Working Dog) team who was on board was John 'Jet Li' Douangdara (Memorial page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Jet-Li-Douangdara-Memorial-Page/116383081792739 ) and his elite K9 soldier, Bart (Memorial page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/In-Memory-Of-Bart-a-True-American-Hero-War-Dog/131732103588058?sk=wall )
To these brave soldiers and all those brave soldiers/Seals who were aboard, may you Rest in Peace and THANK YOU for your courage and service to our country and on our behalf!
Greg's birthday is actually in December, but we decided to now change the celebration of it to mid August so we can make use of our wonderful outdoor entertainment capabilities with our new house. I planned a big bash for Aug 20th. Unfortunately, just a few days prior to Greg's party I was cooking and managed to accidentally run a very sharp, very long knife right through my ring finger! Yes, it was painful, messy and left me with one very useless and painful left hand for many days thereafter. Poor Greg got stuck finishing much of the party prep work, that I had planned to do, now that I was only able to use one hand. It also meant that I wasn't feeling 100% for the party as the shock and pain from the injury left my system on a roller coaster of nausea. But we managed.
Soldiers' Angels Attend Barrington Military Tribute Night
About a week after cutting my finger, I was also scheduled to organize/run a booth for Soldiers' Angels at a local Military appreciation event. Again, I managed, but not without the help of a few wonderful Soldiers' Angels who volunteered to help out. Big thanks to fellow Angels Lauren Pomeranta, Allison Morris, Rhonda Swtelle, Cathy Mulrgan and Jessica Maples. I could NOT have done all that we did without your generous assistance!
On Wednesday, August 24th, 2011, the city of Barrington, or more specifically the Park District of that city, held a Military event in the evening. It was a nice night with a few booths, food and great music, as well as a few speakers and a chance to meet some of our soldiers and veterans and say Thank You to them all for their service to our country.
Soldiers' Angels had a booth at this event. We displayed information to inform people about the organization and also had numerous, beautiful cards, made by Angels, that visitors to the booth could sign so we could send these cards to our deployed wo/men to help lift their spirits.
I'd hoped to make two Banners of Hope that could be signed by visitors so we could send these wishes of recovery and appreciation to wounded soldiers. But due to me having only one good hand and now one slightly recovered hand, I only managed to create one of these quilted 'greeting cards.' But it still worked out great! People came by to sign lots of cards and many also added their personal sentiments to the quilt and received a Soldiers' Angels bracelet for their efforts. This banner will now be sent to the US Hospital in Germany where nurses there will receive it and hang it in the recovery room of a soldier they feel most needs encouragement to get well.
To read more and see lots more photos and media coverage of this event, see this page: Soldiers' Angels Display a Booth at the Barrington Military Tribute Event, Wed, August 24, 2011
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Much more heat in July meant much more time out on the lake, in and out of our boat.
I grew up doing a lot of fishing in my lifetime, both as a kid and later with my first husband who was quite the fanatic Northern and Muskie hunter. Greg never did much fishing in his life, so it was time to take him out and teach him the ropes. HA...Greg caught his biggest Bluegill ever!<smile> We did find a good fishing hole and managed to catch about six nice sized bluegills that we took home and I filleted them to enjoy over a campfire in our yard...a little butter in a pan, toss in a few filets and in minutes...yummm!
However, being animal lovers and having fish tanks of our own where we personally raise hobby fish about the same size as some of the larger fish we'd eaten that night...we decided it would surely be catch and release from this point forward. Well, unless we catch a large Northern Pike. I'm an expert at filleting them and it's been years since I got to enjoy eating one of those. So I must indulge should we be lucky enough to land one some day!
We doggie-sat for our 'grand-puppy' over the July 4th holiday. So we had a houseful of dogs...let the chaos begin!
July 4th meant that before we enjoyed our holiday freedom...we go pay our respects to the wo/men who gave us this ability. So Greg and I mounted our 750cc horses and rode out to the Russell Military Museum, paid our entry fee to further enrich the museum, a good thing to do, and went on a tour of the place, as we contemplated the wo/men who had previously used all this equipment. We read stories of their bravery and Greg explained to me what all this metal was used for.
In the evening, we enjoyed that freedom by taking a little cruise. The day ended with this magnificent sunset.
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Thankfully, June wasn't quite as busy as May. We had a little time to stop and smell the roses...or fishes as it were (ewww!)...as we had a little R&R time to spend enjoying our new boat much of this month.
Soldiers' Angels had a You Rock My Socks Off promotion to help get socks to our soldiers as they go through them faster than the Military can provide them with good ones or as they can wash them out. So it was important to send them more so they could spend less time washing socks and more time doing some of the more important things...like relaxing between missions and writing/reading letters from home. Please be sure to visit the Soldiers' Angel web site often to see current ways you can help our military.
June 10th...my brother died!
My brother, Jim, had been battling a few types of cancer brought on by complications from a hereditary blood disease, one that also killed my dad. Dad died when he was 57 of a blood clot after spending six complicated weeks in the hospital. Jim was given more time thanks to better meds these days, but it was still a long, hard struggle. One he knew he wouldn't win for long. He was 63 when he finally passed away, peacefully in the ER, with his immediate family on June 10th. I wrote a fun article about some of the childhood and later adult antics that dogged us throughout our life together. You can read this fun and touching story here: Gotcha Last
Greg is a private pilot and we've had our own little Cessna 172, 4-seater, single-engine airplane for several years now. It's great! But now that we've moved into boating country, it was time to properly join the community and get a boat. Greg bought us a 21' Cuddy Cabin, suitable for sleeping in the cabin, cruising the lakes, water skiing and even has a little camp toilet under one of the cabin seats for emergencies. Woohoo!<g> Too cool. The weather finally got nice enough to get out on the lakes as Greg studied up on how to now become a boat captain versus the captain of his plane. It was different, but Greg's a quick study and soon had things fairly well mastered. So we got to enjoy some boating time.
And we're learning to appreciate the local critters, this one being a Blue Heron...many of which you see 'hidden' along the shore as we quietly travel through their nesting areas to move from lake to lake.
I'm also learning to deal with the local insect population as I battled for control of my deck chair from this determined wasp. I win! Didn't even need bug spray. I just kept trashing his under construction home each night. He finally got frustrated and found a better place to raise his family.
Extreme heat during the month meant lots of folks were heading to the lakes for a break. We decided it was time to see how much of a true water dog our Lab, Lexi, was. Turns out not much! HA...she enjoyed the ride for the most part, but being about 90 lbs and never having been in water deeper than her 'knees'...we didn't yet toss her into the lake, so it was fairly hot and she was a bit nervous about the bouncing of the boat over the waves. So we brought her back to shore, then home, then headed back out for our own swim.
We also toured around and went to one of the local shipyards where we discovered that the owner of a Military Museum had this Vietnam era gun boat out on the water and was giving Vietnam vets rides around the lakes.
And when it's Father's Day and daddy now has a boat, we just had to take time to further cruise around our watery neighborhood and stop for a little R&R and dinner on the water to allow Greg to enjoy his day.
I also got to 'virtually' meet the mom of a K9 team...Ryan and Sony. Ryan is a Navy man and also part of a K9 team with his MWD (Military Working Dog), Sony. His mom keeps us up on their adventures as best as she can under security issues. Not only are they quite a handsome team, but this month Sony captured one of the enemy who was captured with several pounds of high-explosives that he planned to use against our soldiers! Yeah Sony! You saved an untold number of brave soldiers!
Read more about Ryan and Sony at their link here: http://www.mousetrax.com/angels/MySoldiers.html#sony
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May turned out to be a very busy month! But it started out with some of the best news...Osama bin Laden was dead! A secret US mission of elite US Navy Seals, along with a K9 team, discovered his whereabouts, went it and took the bastard out!
May 6th was Mother's Day. Being the baby of the family and years younger than my siblings, mom and I were very close...especially since dad died when I was just 17, long after the others had married and moved on. So it was just mom and me for a few years until I moved off into my own life. But I returned home to care for mom around 1995 after she fell down in her yard in January and nearly died out on the ice, were it not for the sharp hearing of a good neighbor who heard her calls for help and saved her life! We were one, big happy family...Greg and I and our kids and dogs and mom living in her own space upstairs. Her stroke in 2006 changed the game plan a lot, because she suffered brain damage and life no longer made sense to her...the 'mom' I knew was forever gone. But I remained with her to care for her in the hopes of letting her live out her wishes to die in her own home like dad did.
But that was not to be because one of my sisters felt she knew better what mom needed and dragged mom from the home she loved to live with her.<sigh> So this was the first Mother's day that I didn't get to see, be with, or even talk to mom. I sent her flowers and candy, but she probably doesn't even remember who I am now and seeing me would surely cause her confusion, not to mention pain should she realize she's not allowed (by my sister) to ever go back to her home again, as my sister plans to sell it. Something mom never wanted to happen. So it was a sad, emotional Mother's Day for me. (Photo of me with mom was taken shortly before she was taken by my sister, who is apparently lonely now that her husband of 30+ yrs died of cancer.)
The first week of May is also the annual date for the Bark in the Park charity dog walk to benefit homeless dogs and cats, run by Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society. I started volunteering to participate in 'Bark' back in 2005. At that time just Shelby, our shetland sheepdog, and I walked it. But by the next year I managed to convince Stacy to walk with me, she walked with our Cassy. Then it became a tradition. But now that I've moved about 50 miles away from my daughter, we had to bail on the walk this year. But with Lexi doing so well with other dogs now that she's a 'country dog,' maybe she and I can get involved next year. Or maybe Shelby once again? Poor Cassy is getting a bit too old for that journey.
Anyway, I was quite proud that Stacy still stays involved. She walked it this year with her boyfriend of 7 yrs, Mark, and their dog Simon. They raised close to $350 to help homeless dogs/cats. Nice to see my daughter learned how important it is to help others less fortunate! If you're a dog lover, you'll enjoy reviewing the photo-stories of our annual adventures at Bark on my Pet Lovers' page here: http://www.mousetrax.com/pets.html#bark
The emotional roller coaster continued throughout the month as the Patriot Guard Riders, me being one of them since 2007, brought home Cpl John Peck, who has now been promoted to Sgt John Peck. Not only is John an amazingly brave Marine, but he's a neighbor of mine...a local boy from our Village.
Coming from a Military family, John enlisted in the Marines and was sent to Iraq, where he suffered a severe head wound from an IED that exploded near him. After a long, but successful, recovery, John wanted to go back to the Middle East to be with his unit to continue the fight! He was sent to Afghanistan.
Sadly, John took yet another, terrible hit when another IED exploded and this time it took with it both his legs and part of one arm! Imploring his buddies to 'get me outta here' because 'I don't want to die in this country' they rushed him to a hospital unit. As his second recovery moved along, he had many surgeries, but infections soon also claimed more of his already wounded arm and some portions of his other arm. He was now a quadruple amputee. But no one could take away his spirit, as I discovered when I had the honor of meeting and chatting with him.
On May 9th, we had a formal homecoming parade in our Village for John that ended at the local VFW where he and his mother had arranged a special blood drive, with LifeSource, in his honor to help replenish the blood he's used over the years for his many surgeries. He didn't want his fellow soldiers to suffer from a lack of blood stock because he'd needed so much.
With engines revved and horns blazing...the Patriot Guard Riders brought John home. (Yes, that's me on the second bike. Finally, a newspaper photo without a huge flag in my face! HA!)
John and I had a fun chat and I gave him one of my American Flag Lapghans that I make for wounded soldiers who need to move around in wheelchairs. I mostly give them to the VA Hospitals, but save some to keep handy for special situations. I gave one to the Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Guinta, when I met him, too. John was very sweet and greatly appreciated my gift to him. You can read more about John, his homecoming, my chats with him and the full events of this day...now HIS DAY...as declared by the City of Antioch, as well as the State of Illinois!...at his dedicated link: Sgt John Peck
John and I joking around as his father looks on. (John and his dad both wear wireless headsets so John can easily and discretely communicate with his dad should he need assistance at any time.)
And in keeping with ridiculous pictures of me<lol>, this is one of the photos that landed in the Lake County newspaper. There were some others of John and I together, but this one cracked me up. Looks like I just lost my horse! ;-)
May 12th is Greg's and my anniversary. 2011 marks 14 yrs of happiness for us. So Greg surprised me with this wonderful patio set. I love 'my'<g> patio. Being just off the kitchen, you can often find me out there. But for a time I only had a chair or two and a small table. I'd mentioned that it would be so nice to have a table where we could have breakfast/coffee in the early hours, and maybe even a long couch to enjoy some outdoor cat naps on beautiful weather days. Yet again, Greg made my wishes come true with a beautiful deck set, and yes...a couch long enough for comfy snoozing!
The before (complete with multiple dog beds strategically tossed around by our three dogs) and after shots (an additional chair [not shown] is on the other side).
One more good thing came out of the death of bin Laden...a much greater awareness and popularity of MWDs...Military Working Dogs. Until now, unbelievably, not all that many people understood the fact that there are tons of highly trained, elite dogs in the military, protecting our soldiers from harm every day...at the risk of their own lives. But once the world discovered that one of these elite K9 soldiers was part of the bin Laden 'take-out' mission, everyone was now interested in learning more. So all the news outlets were running stories on these four-legged heroes.
Being a life-long dog lover, I'd been aware of them for many years, as I describe in a story I wrote years ago: Honey, I'm Home!
Now being a member of US War Dogs Org, as well as a supporter of the National MWD Memorial, soon to be built, I was thrilled to see these incredible 'best friends' to man now getting the much deserved credit they are so long overdue! Note that until the year 2000, these dogs were often either put down or left 'in country' (war zone) to fend for themselves...as the US Department of Defense and the US Military considered them "unnecessary equipment." So little was done for their care once they were no longer needed in a war zone! How despicable! But, thankfully, now they are getting much better treatment and even safe retirements. To learn more and to understand ways you can help these faithful and brave K9s get their proper due, see my K9 Care page, here: K9 Care
The father of a soldier who was KIA (killed in action) in Iraq started a traveling memorial wall to help us better recognize all those who have died for us in these two latest wars...Iraq and Afghanistan. His son's photo is on the wall, as is way too many others. He, and other volunteers, take the wall around to various locations, with the help of the Patriot Guard who always escort the wall from location to location.
I wasn't able to make the escort trip, but I did head over to the standing location to help show respect and support for the wall, as requested by our PGR membership. It was a long ride down to Villa Park, but it was very good getting to not only see other PGR members I haven't seen anywhere other than a solemn funeral service, but also having a chance to chat with the father who started this memorial.
Illinois Patriot Guard Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall
Thursday May 19, 2011
5:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Wildfire Harley Davidson
120W. North Ave
Villa Park, IL
You can learn more about this memorial and its creation, as well as display locations and dates, at this link: http://www.ilpgmemorialwall.com/
No explanation needed!
On May 26, I rode off on my motorcycle to battle the cold, rotten weather and 35mph chilled winds to meet up with other Patriot Guard Riders who were gathering a few miles away at the Tollway to meet up with the family of a US Marine who asked us to help bring him home...another of my neighbors! They were a little late arriving at Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, WI, so we waited as the winds whipped us around and we chatted as our teeth chattered. But soon LCpl Jamie Albiter, USMC, of Antioch, IL drove up with his mother and grandmother.
Although Jamie was humbly smiling, I think he may have been a bit overwhelmed. It seems his mom and grandmother had kept this all a secret. Jamie was surprised to see a bunch of bikers surround their car as they pulled into the Tollway gas station. But he was quite appreciative and gracious (aren't all Marines?<smile>) We had a LEO escort (Law Enforcement Officer) the few miles back into town where we hit the horns and revved the engines as we slowly paraded through the village to let everyone know that another of our local heroes has come, safely, home from the war.
His grandmother kept telling me how much the family appreciated us being there to help show their pride in Jamie and give him the Welcome he deserved. We lead them to Jamie's local church where the family insisted all PGRs come in to join them for some hot coffee and treats in the church social room as they wallowed in Jamie's company once again. I happily took up their offer for some hot coffee and then welcomed Jamie once more...then headed home.
Chicago Memorial Day Parade, State Street, May 28th, 2011
The Patriot Guard were invited to ride in Chicago's Memorial Day parade. Since there is a limited number allowed and it is first-come, I was thrilled to get a lot last year...my first year in the parade. But as things turned out, our participation was cancelled prior to the parade for some goofy reason. I was bummed! When the offer was emailed out to us again this year, I again jumped on the chance to participate and again got myself a slot. But as it turned out, that wasn't the best omen this year either since it pretty much stormed most of the day. So my ride back home, which should have taken me about 1-1.5 hrs from downtown Chicago back up to the Wisconsin border turned out to be a fairly miserable 3+ hour ordeal. Not only couldn't I take the highway due to the storms and not feeling safe on them, but I was pretty much drown by down pours no less than four times along the way. Just as the sun and wind dried me off as I rode through the city and suburbs of Chicagoland...another storm would roll in to dump a few more buckets of water on my head.
Another frustrating part was that we were required to arrive for check-in at 9:30am. That meant I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get dressed and ride the couple hours into the city to arrive in time. I did. But as it turned out, we were # 132 or something, so we had a L-O-N-G wait to participate! The parade wasn't even scheduled to start until noon, but the new Mayor Emanuel was a bit late due to spending some extra time with Gold Family members at a special fallen soldier memorial ceremony prior to the parade. No problem there...they deserve all the recognition they can get. But that delayed the start. Then we had to wait our turn.
By the time we got rolling, it was pushing 2pm...and also pushing were the storm clouds that managed to just roll in as the Patriot Guard were rolling out. <sigh> So after our roll down State Street (which was way cool as everyone...who was left at that point...gave us a very nice bit of attention and appreciation) we each headed home in our own directions...in the pouring rain. Not wanting to go on the highway, I had to zigzag my way through town without a GPS...my old one being waterlogged from prior catches in storms.
It was quite the adventure and I was a wet, dry, wet, dry, wet, dry...mess by the time I made it home in the dark, but I'm glad I did it. And one fun fact was that the group behind us in the parade just happened to be my own High School ROTC group. So it was fun to see them in the parade, too.
But no rest for the wicked cos' the next day Greg and I had planned a big housewarming/Memorial weekend party at our house. Which, of course, started late due to being held outside in our patio/yard and the day started out with yet more rain!<sigh> But eventually things dried out and the party got rolling. The next day...Memorial Day itself...I slept!
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I'm an April baby, so I celebrated my birthday this month. However, I also managed to get a marvelously miserable head cold that week prior to my birthday, so I wasn't much in the mood for any celebration. But one of our wonderful, new neighbors was having a dinner party that we'd already RSVPed to attend...on my birthday. So I gathered my snot rags, loaded myself with meds and dragged myself to the party after several days of being no more than a lump in bed. It did turn out very nice and Greg had secretly conspired with the hostess to have a special cake for me after dinner...to which all attendees sang Happy Birthday. Very sweet! Then I went home and rolled myself back into my near death bed for another couple days.
Once feeling more alive, I had to get out and get items for a care package for my K9 team. Greg and I hit the stores and gathered up goodies for both members of the team...Matt the human and Bosco the K9 and sent off a big box of goodies for them both.
My daughter happens to have a personal friend, Kevin, who is a US Marine stationed in Kuwait...as a guard at the US Embassy there. I got to know him via my daughter's Facebook posts and her comments now and then about his adventures. So I, too, linked up with him and eventually made and sent him one of my American Flag Lapghans to thank him for his service. Sent that out, too, this month.
Wasn't able to get too much more done this month because between feeing under the weather much of the month and the fact that it uncharacteristically SNOWED on April 19...SAY WHAT????...YES! Not totally unusual. Being born this month, I know it has snowed on or about my birthday in previous years. But I sure was anxious for better weather this month...come on spring!
I did...however, get a chance to get out to the local biker/leather shop to get a few more patches for my vest. It needed a little more on the back, so I got these and, thankfully, have a good/strong sewing machine so I spent a little time sewing them onto the leather vest (not the easiest task).
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During March, I guess I mostly whined about the weather. But each time I did...I stopped and thought about what our soldiers are enduring and attempted to stop my whining...as hard as that might be! I worked on my American Flag Lapghans...which are all in various stages of completion because making those stars are a PITA and sewing them on can be even more annoying. It those times I wish were were still only 13 colonies!<g>
On St. Paddy's day, we went to support our local VFW by purchasing tickets for their Corn Beef & Cabbage dinner/dance. It was a great night. We got to see their military museum...
...and also enjoyed the company of our new neighbors and friends.
I attended two veteran funerals in Union Grove, WI. Geez...those were C-O-L-D rides! But these two soldiers didn't have any family to be there for them, so I felt I had to make sure I was a part of their honors!
Sadly, we also had to bring home a neighbor of ours...who was KIA in Afghanistan. I need to put details on my PGR page. It's hard enough when you attend a KIA arrival...worse when it is someone from your small town! UPDATE! You can now find a link to Andrew Wade's memorial page amongst my Patriot Guard mission listings.
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I REALLY hate the month of February! Winter can be a nice season, but by February I'm just tired of it...tired of feeling cold, sick of looking at snow and generally fed up with being stuck in the house much of the time due to inclement weather. So I do my best to try to keep busy to help me forget about winter as I anxiously await better weather.
But this February I did get a couple of mood enhancing lifts. The first was a few nice weather days that Mother Nature slipped in as a tease, which I took full advantage of by getting in my first motorcycle ride of 2011...quickly followed by a couple more before the weather changed and I was back to freezing my butt off and bitching about the cold.<smirk>
However, as wonderful as those rides were, they pale in comparison to my next lift...I was given a MWD (Military Working Dog) team to adopt!
I'd wanted to get involved with a K9 team again, since my days with Military Mascots, but Soldiers' Angels stopped their K9 adoption program (for some reason???), so I didn't know how I could go about finding a team. Then Ron, a Vietnam MWD handler/vet and founder of US War Dogs, set me up with a team this month and I was thrilled to get their address and photo! I immediately sent them an intro letter and care package with goodies for both of them and I look forward to, hopefully, hearing back to learn more about them. See My Adopted Soldiers page to read more about Matt & Bosco and all the soldiers I've adopted.
February also saw the Supreme Court uphold the ruling that a particular group of insane religious extremists here in the US are within their rights of Free Speech to protest at Soldier's funerals. It disgusts me that they have this right...a right that our soldiers fight/die to give them (ironic, eh?)...but the court did make the right Constitutional ruling, as revolting as it is. However, thankfully, for years now the Patriot Guard Riders [PGR] (of which I am a PROUD member since 2007) were founded as a way of dealing with these loons. And, interestingly, with all the chatter regarding this ruling being foremost in the recent news, I was surprised to learn that several of my friends didn't realize I was a member of the PGR. Duh! I'd only been talking/posting about it for years! So I got busy on my Facebook page trying to wise people up about the PGR and all the good they do protecting families from these extremists. See my PGR page to read more, as well as view photo stories about several brave heroes and watch some touching tribute videos.
Being stuck in the house did allow me to catch up on my letter writing. As a member of the Soldiers' Angels Letter Writing Team, I regularly get the names/addresses of deployed soldiers who could use a letter from home to brighten their day. This month...I hit my 200th letter! See my Letter Writing page to learn more and see how you, too, can brighten a soldiers' day by writing to them or even by sending them a cup of coffee through the Cup O' Joe program, which allows you to easily pay for a soldiers' cup of coffee when they visit a base café in the sandbox.
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January has been fairly quiet around here. Not that there haven't been events that I could have or should have been attending for the Patriot Guard, but we're still trying to get our new home organized, so I've had to make good use of the hibernating winter months so we can get our new life better settled in anticipation of warmer weather. Plus, I'm still trying to get used to traveling around in a new location. And to be honest, I haven't ventured out in the car much due to lots of snow. Greg and I may not be the biggest fans of piles and piles of snow, but as you can see (left image)...two of our dogs are enjoying romping around in the snow.
But I didn't completely abandon my Angel activities just because I'm hiding away in the warmth of the house. Besides letter writing, to which I'll soon be writing my 200th soldier, I also have been making scarves for homeless vets to help keep them warm. Over a couple weeks this month, I used up some of my excess yarn to make several scarves for vets that I sent to Barb/volunteer services at Hines VA hospital in Chicagoland.
Also, one of the soldiers to whom I wrote as a member of the Soldiers' Angels letter writing team, Kevin, wrote me back a thank you and eventually we linked up on Facebook as friends. I tracked his deployment time and we chatted via more letters and Internet posts. When he finally and happily returned home to his family, I remembered that I'd said I'd try to send him one of my HERO blankets, but I'd never gotten around to doing it while he was deployed (feeling terrible about that!). So once I realized this error, I got busy making his blanket and, due to my delay, decided to send him a special one...using one of my Army panels.
These specially designed, fleece panels can be purchased through many online sites, including joann.com, where I get most of mine. I added a cotton American Patriot Button pattern designed for the backing and added my custom THANK YOU...FOR YOUR COURAGE! lettering along the top. Kevin emailed me when he received the blanket and was THRILLED to have it. He plans to hang the Army side up on the wall in his home. You can read more about Kevin, and all my adopted soldiers, on My Soldier page.
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I've felt bad that I've been unable to attend Patriot Guard Rider missions of late due to major changes in my life.
For the last 15 yrs, I've been caring for my elderly mom in our family homestead (where dad died in the mid 70s and where she wanted to stay). But in 2006, she had a stroke that caused aphasia (inability to properly recognize language and memory loss). Previously, we pretty much just kept her company, now I was her constant caretaker and needed to stick close to home as she would get scared if left alone. But at the end of July, other family members finally stepped up to lend a hand by moving mom (who will be 91 in March) from her home to theirs, where she now resides. She's in a better place, since her own home was not built to handle wheelchairs and other family members hated coming into the city to visit her, so visits were rare. This also freed Greg and I up to move on with our own lives, so we moved away to a heavenly new home. I love mom and miss our family home, but it was time to do a little living of our own.
It was a big move that took several weeks to clear out of the old house...with 54 years of family memories, as well as 54 years of personal junk left by every family member who had previously lived there and moved out! So there was a lot of sorting and organizing, then packing and moving, then unpacking and organizing in our new home. Whew! It's taken a few months to get through it all, but Greg and I...and the dogs and cat...finally feel organized, settled and love our new life.
I was recently able to get back to writing soldiers and have now been working on blankets for soldiers again...in my own, new sewing room, which is wonderful. But today was an honor I'm still in awe about...I got to meet SSgt. Salvatore Giunta, US Army, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient...the first living recipient in 40 years, since Vietnam. I brought one of my American Flag lapghans, attached my Angel card to it and was able to get up to meet him in person to give him the lapghan. He's so sweet and humble. And as I told Greg...what's so amazing is that for the moment you have his attention, you do have his attention...he's so sincere to everyone he meets. It's an amazing feeling. He's a wonderful ambassador now for the Army and Military at large.
I have more pictures and info, which I'll be posting HERE soon.
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Okay, this is definitely kismet...I love to crochet at night as a way to unwind. But I'd just finished a project and although I'm planning another, I didn't get the yarn yet. So here I was tonight going a little nuts wishing I had a project to work on versus just sitting here watching TV trying to relax before bed. I have a cabinet full of excess yarns, but didn't know what to make or for whom. As I was looking through my yarns, I realized how much baby yarn I have and wished I could use it up. I decide to check my email and there's the weekly newsletter email from Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels. In it they are asking for people to help out by joining the Soldiers' Angels Operation Top Knot. HA...and what is that team all about you ask? They make (crochet, knit, sew, quilt, buy) gifts for expectant military wives. BINGO!
So I just joined that team, pulled out some soft baby yarn and tonight I'm working on whipping out a fun baby afghan to soon sent off as a gift to some military mommy-to-be.
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Some folks on Facebook were asking me about some of my letter writing techniques, so I posted an update to my letter writing section of this site and included techniques, tips about writing and downloads to the templates I use for cards, letters and labels, which you can read about and download for your own use...by clicking HERE.
I attended a sad escort bringing home the body of Airborne PFC Gunnar Hotchkin to his family. I'll soon be posting photos from that mission in the above PGR section. I only noticed the email of that ride that morning, but was able to rush to make it. I'm glad I did have the chance to pay my respect to this son, husband, father, brother and soldier who gave his life for us.
Having now written over 125 soldiers through the letter writing team, I've made some new friends. I had fun sending Freeze Pops to one unit who sent me a great photo of the unit eating their freeze pops in the desert.
Click HERE to read more about Rob and this Air Force MP unit.
Off to the Post Office to send some care packages to my two remaining adopted soldiers. Yes, I did adopt a third now, but being a newly adopted soldier under my wings, his care package was an initial Deployment Pkg I purchased/sent directly from the Soldiers' Angels' store. It includes welcoming info, as well as a Soldiers' Angel challenge coin and Soldiers' Angels sand scarf.
I send one of the deployment packs as an introduction package to all my newly adopted soldiers. Later I send them either pkgs from the SA store or purchase my own items and mail them myself. Here's a photo of some of what's in this set of pkgs...
I got the word that another of my soldiers would be soon going home, so I applied to adopt a new one...keeping my max of three adoptees going. See My Soldiers page for updates on who's going home and who is now under my wings.
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I just realize that tonight, after writing five letters to soldiers as part of the letter writing team, that...add to that my nine adopted soldiers...and I've now written to my 100th deployed soldier! Whoohoo!
Well, that was short-lived excitement. I no sooner told everyone to watch for me in the Memorial Day parade than I got another email from the Patriot Guard leadership saying that, due to a disagreement with the city, we would not be participating in the parade. Apparently, some political or law enforcement officials wanted to run the licenses of all Patriot Guard motorcycle riders to check for outstanding legal issues. Although I had no problem with that, the leadership felt we were being profiled as "bad bikers" and refused to go along with this process on principle...so they pulled out. <sigh> Oh, well. Maybe next time.
Just got the word that I made the cut and will be one of the Patriot Guard Riders riding in the Chicago Memorial Day parade down State Street on Sat, May 29th...the largest parade in the country! Whoohoo! The PGR have been part of the parade before, but I have never had a chance to participate. Either I wasn't able to get away from caring for mom or my request was too late for the limited slots. This year I just happened to be awake in the middle of the night when the email notice arrive, so I replied immediately and am in. Can't wait. Should be on WGN TV, if you get that...watch for me!
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On April 30th, I had the HONOR of riding with the Patriot Guard to welcome home a Chicago hero...MSgt Pedro "Pete" Medina, a Chicago Police Officer and Army MP. He was critically wounded when a building fell on him while under fire in SW Afghanistan. Paralyzed from the neck down in May 2009, he proved the doctors wrong as he slowly regained his movement. On April 30th, he walked through Midway airport under his own power to the welcoming arms of his family, friends, fellow Chicago Police Officers and fellow Army MP soldiers. See photos: Pedro
Finally received Official notice that Spc Christopher is now on his way home from the sandbox, so he is no under my wing. See My Soldiers page for the latest soldier adoption and Mission Accomplished news of "my guys"...with the addition of my new soldier, Gabriale. He's my ninth adopted soldier.
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As a Soldiers' Angel since early 2008, it was time to make it official and become a Life Member of Soldiers' Angels.
Soldiers are, as the saying goes "like potato chips...can't have just one." Spc Christopher's status is still uncertain through Soldiers' Angels (I HOPE he's okay!!), so he has not yet been officially released from my list, but I've been told to stop sending things to him. So with only Sgt John as an active adoption, I felt the need to add one more soldier under my wing. My request for an additional adoption gave me Spc Kevin, in Afghanistan.
While writing to so many soldiers through the Letter Writing Team, I wish I could adopt them all, so the urge to move their names up the list by taking one more off the list to my care was just too strong. However, I do think I'll save that third spot (once it's officially cleared) for needy soldier care packages through the letter team.
I did pack up a few extra, smaller care packages that I'll send to those soldiers who sound the most needy in remote Afghanistan bases.
Wow...suddenly many of my adopted soldiers are coming home! A few weeks ago I had four adopted soldiers...now just one. Sgt Chester is on US soil...at a base waiting to finalize his time and head home to his family. Just got the word that Captain Mike is now heading home and released from my care. And with the return of the blanket I sent to Spc Christopher, Soldiers' Angels have verified that his unit is also returning. That leaves Sgt John for now.
I'm currently debating on whether I should fully adopt more soldiers or use my efforts to help support the many soldiers requesting care packages through the Letter Writing Team? I write them letters, but feel bad that I can't afford to send them things they request, because I had so many other soldiers. So maybe I'll send a lot of smaller care packages versus adopting one? Tough decision!
I wanted to adopt a K9 team by now, but it appears Soldiers' Angels no longer runs a K9 support department!?!?! I'd love to find a team to support. I'll have to check with some of my K9 Vet friends to see if they know how I can do this?
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Still making blankets for soldiers as time permits. Also heard from Sgt Chester that he'll be heading home, soon, so I adopted a new soldier. Just wrote my first letter of intro to Sgt John, so I haven't heard anything from him yet. I may not ever, but I hope so.
I also applied to the Soldiers' Angels' Letter Writing Team (LWT) in December and, after a month on probation, writing several soldiers, I was approved and moved to the official team. Each week I go to the Approved Angel site and pick up three new names of soldiers who could use a letter from home...and I write them. See my LWT page for more info and a link to join the team.
Anther great way to say thanks to a soldier is to send him/her a cup of coffee...a Cup of Joe for a Joe. See my link HERE for more info and to learn how quickly you can end a $2 cup of coffee to a deployed soldier!
I got a bunch of this great canvas fabric donated to me by a woman who purchased these used, patriotic canvas table cloths. I wasn't sure what to do with it all because it is a bit too heavy for blankets. Then I got an email from a soldier at a base who received one of my fleece/cotton blankets that I'd sent to a soldier who had already gone home. He asked my permission to keep it so he could hang it in their dining hall for all the soldiers to enjoy. I said SURE! I was thrilled with that outcome!
That gave me the idea of using this fabric as banners. Over the last couple weeks, I've been asking friends on Facebook and through email to send me photos of themselves enjoying their freedoms and saying THANK YOU to our troops. I plan to transfer the photos to fabric and sew them on this fabric to make Thank You banners. I'll then send them to our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan so the troops can see the faces of some Americans who want to thank them for what they do for us.
To see the photos I received (deadline for photos Dec 7, 2009), you can check them out on my assembly page here and soon I hope to have photos of a finished banner.
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Now, a week later, I've just finished a mini afghan for my adopted soldier's son, who is the twin of the daughter of Capt Mike who will be receiving the pink/purple blanket shown further below. This one may not look as fancy, but the guys love the camo yarn and this little boy wants to be like daddy, so I'm sure he'll enjoy the camo blanket.
Both will be shipped to his wife this week so she can surprise the kids with it and enjoy snuggling on the couch for their weekly Friday movie night.
Just before Thanksgiving, I finished a mini afghan for one of my adopted soldier's little daughter. Capt Mike has adorable twins...a boy and a girl. So with his wife's permission, I'm making them each a blanket From Daddy's Angel to help keep them warm as they sit on the sofa with mommy and watch movies this winter.
Their little girl loves pinks and purples (could only find violet yarn). I added ruffles on three sides since mommy told me their little girl is quite the girly girl. Their son will be getting a camo afghan so he can be like daddy! Ahhh! I'll be starting that one as soon as the camo yarn arrives.
This month I shipped off a bunch of scarves to Hines VA hospital as a little something that the staff can give to soldiers who are in need of a little extra warmth this winter. Scarves are quick to make and make good use of left over yarn. If you're interested in helping, email me at email@example.com
Scarves should be about 5 inches wide and 4 feet long.
November started out sadly when we heard of the horrific shooting at Ft. Hood. Thirteen of our soldiers were killed when a fellow soldier when on a shooting rampage! Two of those soldiers where from Illinois and one was from my neighborhood...PFC Francheska Velez. As a member of the Patriot Guard, I helped bring her home to her family. See the sad story here: PGR_ChekaVelez
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The Lost Art of Letter Writing
Today I located one of the few, remaining Hallmark stores in the city, on the hunt for some new stationery to write my soldiers. I had been using some pretty dolphin note cards, but ran out. I had visions of finding a nice box of stationery to help me get in the writing mood each week as I update my soldiers on events in the homeland.
Sadly, I discovered that my fond memories of aisles of wonderful stationery from which to choose...are no longer valid. I purchased a small amount of fairly plain letter notes w/envelopes to hold me over until I can find something suitable online...or I may just have to wing it and design/print my own.
As I told the helpful Hallmark woman who gave me the bad news...I feel partly responsible for this paperless/electronic world due to being involved in programming computers for the last 18+ years. So I guess this is pay back!<smile> However, this last year I've relearned the art and value of a written letter as I wrote several letters a week, one to each of my adopted soldiers. And as one of my soldiers recently wrote in a quick email from the war zone...you can clearly see that handwritten letters to a lonely soldier is a gift they really appreciate!
"Everyone has a purpose to do on this earth. I think one of your purpose on this earth is to touch people's heart in a very special way. I would never thought I would received a handwritten letter and this lengthy, esp. when everyone had already put their pencil down and turn to e-mailing. Not to mention time. So, special that you took time to write. I will try to treasure this letter to be part of my special collections and I will pass on to my next generations. Thank you for writing!"
Get involved! Adopt a soldier of your own and relocate the lost art of letter writing! Or join the Letter Writing Team of Soldiers Angels and write notes to lonely soldiers without an adoption. You can do as much or as little as you want...JUST DO IT!
In preparation for the cold Chicago winter, Dian has been making use of extra yarn bits by making quick winter scarves, which she will soon deliver to Hines Veterans' Hospital in the Chicagoland area as giveaways to vets who need a little extra warmth this winter.
Dian prepares to pack up her October care pack shipment to her three adopted soldiers. Sometimes she sends packs directly from the Soldiers' Angels site...like the birthday pack she sent to Captain Mike recently. But sometimes she purchases items herself and ships them off in US Mail Priority boxes. Once price for each (plus a discount for APO [Army Post Office] addresses)...so LOAD them up!
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From Feb, 2009 until Oct, 2009...much of my work was done with the local group I started. See PPSA for more info/pictures of those efforts. We disbanded the group in October, 2009, due to limited resources and participation. But Dian will continue her Soldiers' Angels work on her own, as before, if not more!
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Six crocheted lapghans (smaller afghans to accommodate wounded vets who may be in wheel chairs) ready so far, with a few more in the works. Dian will be taking these lapghans to Hines VA Hospital in Chicagoland in November (for Veteran's Day). Big thanks to friends who helped produce these lapghans. (See PPSA)
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Care packages sent to three adopted soldiers, Capt Mike, Staff Sgt Eddie and Specialist John. Sgt Kelly (my first adopted soldier) and his unit returned from the Sandbox and are heading home...mission accomplished. Thanks to the new post office's Priority flat rate boxes and the $2 Military mailing discount on priority mail, I'm able to JAM these boxes with about $100 worth of items I know the guys want/need...and ship each nearly 15 lb box off for just $11.95 each.
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During July, Dian managed to knock out one more full lapghan. Thanks to invisible thread, I was able to quickly sew all 50 stars on my lapghan in a couple of hours by machine using free-style darning. I'd done this before, but the white threads on the reverse blue was unsightly. So I'd been taking time sewing the stars on by hand. Thanks to invisible thread, I can use machines again. Although using invisible thread can be a challenge in itself, since it's like fishing line and tends to unwind from the spool on its own. My stand-up thread holder helped solve that problem.
If you'd like to learn how to make the stars, click HERE to jump to where you'll find a link to view an online video where I demonstrate the process.
One more to add to the pile that I'll soon bring to Hines VA Hospital.
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I discover that I've received a very cool honor...the main Soldiers' Angels web site kicks off its 2009 Holiday Blankets of Belief campaign and in each of their many different brochures, fliers and web pages announcing the campaign, they are using images of MY blankets! Yup, each photo they are using (after they asked my permission to use them, which I happily granted them full rights to use) are pictures from my site of the blankets I made during the 2008 campaign! How cool!
To learn more and help make these blankets, see Soldiers' Angels Blanket of Belief page.
PLEASE get involved! Click HERE for live links to the blanket info above.
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I read in the Soldier's Angel newsletter that veterans making their way to VA hospitals could use winter scarves to keep them warm. That's easy...so I've been working on making some in the evenings when it's time to relax. Scarves are fast and easy to make and help you make good use of all those extra bits of yarn you have left over. Get busy! Vets, as well as lots of folks in shelters, could use your gifts to keep them warm this winter!
A nice thank you letter from the VA at Hines VA hospital...in appreciation for the scarves.
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I learned about the Soldiers' Angel crochet team late in the year, but did manage to complete two crocheted blankets for vets in the VA hospitals. US Flags are the most requested type of crocheted lap blankets, so I figured out how to make what the vets wanted most.
I printed out a clear US Flag image from the web to use as a reference. A little math helped me figure out the width for each row (approx 3" each) and length (125 cast ons using all half-doubles) so I could meet the required dimensions. Then it was off to the races. Once I hit the blue, it was a little tricky keeping both the row color and blue yarns from getting tangled as I moved from color to color in each row, but it worked out nicely...as long as our cat wasn't around!<smile>
The stars were the hardest and most time consuming part. I tried many ideas, but finally settled on individually crocheting 50 small stars per flag, then using my sewing machine with the embroidery foot to zigzag the stars onto the blue field with free-hand sewing. They turned out okay, but I may just purchase pre-cut white stars in the future and sew them...or I may work to master crocheting them directly onto the blue?
But as you can see, the finished lap blanket turned out pretty nice. I decided to add a 3-sided, gold crochet border of triple stitch to represent the gold fringe on military flags. I finished the left edge with my signature white satin binding. At first I'd planned to also stitch my Thank You lettering onto the white satin, but then realized...Hey! You don't put writing on a US Flag! So I passed on that idea.
And since they were flags...my 10 years as a Girl Scout kicked in and I wrestled the yarn blankets into properly folded flag formats, tied them with ribbon, added the required crochet team tag and shipped them off.
And as you can see...they seemed to have passed their initial inspection...
From: VA Crochet and Craft Team [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, November 17, 2008 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: Soldiers Angels VA Team Holiday Lap Blanket Drive
Thank you for completing your US Flag afghans. They are gorgeous!! I really liked the idea of the satin binding on the side. I have not seen that one, and it really ties it all together. We can feel for you trying to fold up the yarn blankets, rolling them nicely is a chore itself. Fleece blankets roll nicely, but not afghans. :)
Yes, you may crochet these at your leisure and donate to the VAs. Just let us know if you can when you have some completed so we can let you know if some different VAs are needing blankets etc. We greatly appreciate your help this year. Thank you for your generous gifts. May your family have a blessed Thanksgiving.
VA Crochet Craft Team Coordinators
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Well, I managed to get two sewn blankets more out before the updated December deadline. I didn't make my self-imposed 20 blankets that I was hoping to make when I first joined the sewing team in May, 2008...but I did manage to make and send out a total of 12 blankets for our soldiers for this holiday. And, of course, I'll continue, as time permits, to make more for our wounded soldiers.
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I'm EXTREMELY proud and humbled to tell you that Soldiers' Angels contacted me and asked permission to feature my blankets on their web site!
Subject: Blankets of Belief
Comments: Your designs are gorgeous! Would it be possible to have your permission to post some of the pictures of your blankets BOB's on our main www.soldiersangels.org site? Let me know.
Thank you for allowing Soldiers' Angels to post and share your wonderful blanket creations. I sew too..and I am mesmerized by all the colors and the way you put your blankets together. Many soldier's will be so delighted to receive one of your warm and cozy blankets.
Here's a couple screen shots from Soldiers' Angels web site showing several of my blankets (top couple rows), as well as a close up showing one of the explanations.
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I recently checked out the Soldier's Angels blanket page and found a photo update of just some of the blankets they've received at the NC holding site. And check it out...I can see two of my blankets in the pile!
Look closely in the red circle and you'll see my blankets (as shown further below on this page) # 2 and # 3 in the stack! How Cool!
Need inspiration to get rolling making your own blankets for the soldiers?
Check out this BEAUTIFUL cartoon from LawnDartComics.com dedicated to Soldiers' Angels and their blanket campaign!
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May - October 2008
As time permitted during 2008, I've been making Blankets of Hope to send to wounded soldiers and Blankets of Belief to send to deployed soldiers who will be away from home for the 2008 holidays. More recently, I started making Blankets of Gratitude, in my case, I make crochet US Flag lap blankets, which are much requested by wounded vets in VA hospitals.
Below are just SOME of the blankets I've made for our soldiers. Further below you can find some details about how I make these simple, but pretty and much appreciated blankets.
Blanket # 8
Blanket # 7
Blanket # 6
Blanket # 5
Blanket # 4
Blanket # 3
Blanket # 2
Blanket # 1
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Help Dian Help More Soldiers and Veterans
Because some people have asked to help pay for some of the blankets I make for soldiers as their way of helping...I've added this link. If you would like to make a donation to support my efforts to help me purchase more fabric and yarn to allow me to make more blankets for our soldiers, you can do so, securely, online through PayPal by clicking the Donation button below:
THANK YOU very much for your Support!
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To Dian's main tech web site.